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Wake Up To Politics - April 2, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, April 2, 2019. 307 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 581 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Trump threatens to close U.S.-Mexico border

President Donald Trump has threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border this week, telling attendees at a Florida event last Friday: "If they don't stop them, we're closing the border," referring to two large migrant caravans making their way toward the U.S. border. "We'll close it. And we'll keep it closed for a long time. I'm not playing games. Mexico has to stop it." He underlined the threat on Twitter later that day, writing: "If Mexico doesn't immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States [through] our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week."

The White House has yet to clarify what the president's plans are, but presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway insisted on "Fox News Sunday" that he was serious: "It certainly isn't a bluff," she said. "You can take the president seriously."

According to Politico Playbook, senior officials inside Trump's administration are "in a state of panic" over his plans to close the border, worried about the implications of such an action. According to CNN, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller told surrogates on a conference call Monday that Trump has not yet made the decision to shut down the border, and that his next move will depend on how the week goes. "We will see how much progress we are able to make in the ensuing days, in terms of getting more enforcement with Central and South America, so that we are not getting swamped by meritless asylum claims predominantly from Central America," Miller reportedly said.

Politico also reported that administration officials and congressional Republicans are "bewildered" by Trump's return to his hard-line immigration rhetoric, which comes ahead of a planned Friday visit to the border. According to the Arizona Republic, he will visit the new bollard-style fencing in Calexico, California, which is "the first major replacement project a the U.S.-Mexico border completed during Trump's presidency."

In addition, according to the Associated Press, Trump is considering naming an "immigration czar" to coordinate immigration policy across his administration, with two potential candidates being discussed for the post: former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, both far-right conservative politicians.

House Democrats ramp up oversight efforts

A number of House Democratic-controlled committees will move to issue subpoenas to top Trump Administration officials in the coming days, accelerating their efforts to investigate the executive branch.

The House Oversight Committee's Democratic staff released a memo on Monday detailing claims by a whistle-blower working inside the Trump White House that senior administration officials overruled career employees to grant security clearances to at least 25 individuals, including two current senior White House officials. The whistle-blower, Tricia Newbold, is a 18-year White House veteran who currently serves as the Adjudications Manager in the Personnel Security Office. Newbold told the committee that the 25 applications were denied by career officials for reasons including "foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct."

Yahoo News has reported that the two senior White House officials who received clearances over the objections of the career employees are the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The Oversight Committee is expected to vote today to issue a subpoena to Carl Kline, who served as White House director of personnel security during the first two years of the Trump administration. Kline was Newbold's direct manager, who allegedly decided to overturn the decision to deny security clearances to Kushner and others.

Separately, the panel will also vote today to issue subpoenas to Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for documents related to the controversial decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a move that was struck down by a federal judge in January and will be considered by the Supreme Court next month.

In addition, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said Monday that his committee will vote on Wednesday to authorize subpoenas to obtain special counsel Robert Mueller's "full and complete" report. Nadler had previously set a deadline of today for Attorney General Barr to release the report, although the AG has said it will take him until mid-April to make necessary redactions to the 400-page document.

Trump to punt on health care until after 2020 elections

Via the Washington Post:

"President Trump signaled Monday night that he will not press for a vote on a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act until after next year’s elections, apparently heeding warnings from fellow Republicans about the perils of such a fight during campaign season."

"In a series of late-night tweets, Trump continued to bash President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law but said a vote on a replacement would not occur until after the elections — suggesting that he believes he would still be in the White House and that Republicans would control both chambers of Congress at that point."

"'Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House,' Trump wrote. 'It will be truly great HealthCare that will work for America.'"

"Congressional Republicans were caught off guard by Trump’s rapid shift to focus on health care last week, which was set off by his abrupt decision to direct the Justice Department to intervene in a federal court case seeking to eliminate the ACA in its entirety on constitutional grounds."

"Trump later showed up a Senate Republican luncheon where he declared that they should be the 'party of health care' and asked for assistance in writing a new bill."

"It soon became clear, however, that other Republicans had little appetite to take on an issue that benefited Democrats during last year’s midterm elections."

2020 Central

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to wrestle with questions surrounding allegations that he has inappropriately touched women over the years. A second allegation emerged on Monday, with the Hartford Courant reporting on Amy Lappos' claim that Biden made her uncomfortable at a political fundraiser in 2009. "It wasn't sexual, but he did grab me by the head," she said. "He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth." Lappos followed Nevada Democrat Lucy Flores, who described Biden kissing her on the head and smelling her hair in a New York Magazine piece published Friday.

More: "'He needs to be a lot more aware': Dems agonize over Biden" (Politico)

--- Two Democratic presidential candidates have now announced their fundraising totals from the first quarter of 2019: South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who raised $7 million, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who raised $12 million. Buttigieg's fundraising haul cements his steady rise from underdog contender to the top tier of the race, as illustrated by the recent explosion of Google search interest in the young mayor.

--- Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls participated in a forum on "democracy issues" on Monday, discussing ideas to change the structure of the U.S. political system. Here's a handy roundup from the Washington Post of which candidates support which changes, including abolishing the electoral college, eliminating the Senate filibuster, and lowering the voting age to 16...

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White House schedule

--- At 1:45 p.m., President Trump meets with Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). At 2:05 p.m., Trump participates in an expanded bilateral meeting with Stoltenberg.

According to a White House statement, Trump and Stoltenberg will discuss "the unprecedented successes of NATO, including the recent increased commitments on burden-sharing among European Allies, and ways to address the current, evolving challenges facing the Alliance." The statement also said that the meeting "will underscore the importance of the Alliance as a bulwark of international peace and security," ahead of NATO's 70th anniversary on Thursday.

Trump's relationship with NATO has been complicated; he was intensely critical of the alliance during the 2016 campaign, and the New York Times reported in January that the president privately told aides several times throughout 2018 that he wanted to withdraw from the alliance. Per the Washington Post, Trump has recently devised a proposal that would require NATO countries to "pay the full cost of stationing American troops on their territory, plus 50 percent," which would mean allies would be "contributing five times what they now provide."

At 6:55 p.m., the president participates in the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Annual Spring Dinner at the National Building Museum.

--- At 1 p.m., Vice President Mike Pence meets with the family members of six Citgo executives (five of whom are U.S. citizens) who have been detained by the Maduro government in Venezuela. At 2:05 p.m., Pence joins Trump's expanded bilateral meeting with Secretary General Stoltenberg.

Congress schedule

--- The Senate meets at 10 a.m. today. The chamber will recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. to allow for weekly caucus meetings. At 2:15 p.m., the Senate will vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to S.Res. 50, which would reduce the post-cloture debate time on the president's district court and sub-Cabinet nominees from 30 hours to 2 hours. The move will need 60 votes to proceed, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to invoke the "nuclear option" to lower that threshold if the procedural vote fails.

--- The House meets at 10 a.m. today. The chamber will consider H.Res. 271, a non-binding resolution "condemning the Trump Administration's legal campaign to take away Americans' health care," coming after the Justice Department's decision to back a full invalidation of the Affordable Care Act, known as "Obamacare."

The House will also vote on three measures renaming post offices (H.R. 540, H.R. 829, and S. 725).

Supreme Court schedule

--- The justices have no oral arguments or conferences scheduled for today.

From Monday: "Rancor and Raw Emotion Surface in Supreme Court Death Penalty Ruling" (New York Times)

*All times Eastern